U.S. Senator Mikulski, Maryland Democrat, to Retire

BALTIMORE (AP) -

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the 78-year-old Maryland Democrat, who led the powerful Appropriations Committee, announced Monday that she’d decided on the latter approach and would not seek re-election next year when her fifth term ends.

“I don’t want to spend my time campaigning for me,” she said at a news conference in Fells Point, the now-trendy waterfront area where her parents had a grocery store and her immigrant grandparents ran a bakery. It’s also where Mikulski got her first taste of politics leading an effort to stop an expressway from coming through. “I want to campaign for the people.”

Her announcement opens the way for what could be a raucous fight next year to replace her in Maryland’s first open Senate seat in a decade. Potential candidates include former governors — Democrat Martin O’Malley and Republican Bob Ehrlich — and current House members, among them Republican Andy Harris and Democrats Chris Van Hollen, Donna Edwards and Elijah Cummings. Democratic Rep. John Delaney, a wealthy former businessman, made the first move, announcing that he would explore the race.

Although Maryland voters lean heavily Democratic, especially in presidential election years, the state elected a Republican governor last fall and Republicans insist they will compete hard in the Senate race.

A strong liberal voice for women, seniors, and the environment, Mikulski became the longest-serving woman in the history of Congress in 2012. She was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1976 and has served in the Senate since 1987.